A new bill in the House of Representatives on NASA funding suggests $ 10 million a year to look for signs of life.
A climate denier could be the reason The S-word is back in fashion in Congress. Oh yes, not this s-word, the other one: SETI.
That's right, Congress is talking about spending a lot of money on alien intelligence (or SETI) searching for the first time in 25 years.] In 1992, NASA's huge SETI initiative was to build two radio telescopes (one in Puerto Rico and one in California) to search the cosmos for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. Just a year later, however, Senator Richard Bryan of Nevada closed it, and "SETI" became unspeakable. [Greetings, Earthlings! 8 Ways Aliens Could Contact Us]
"[Bryan] made the government realize that it would not be good for the NASA budget if they were back with SETI in their budget," said the renowned astronomer Jill Tarter Marina Koren of The Atlantic. "So we immediately became the four-letter S-word you could not say at Headquarters, and that's been a while."
(Tarter served as director of the SETI Institute for 35 years before joining in 2012.)
Now, the US House of Representatives has proposed a bill providing $ 10 million in NASA funding for the next two years "to look for techno signatures like radio broadcasts to reach the NASA's goal of finding the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe." Such techno signatures would appear in the form of radio waves that have the telltale properties to be produced by TV or radio type technologies. An intelligent civilization could also purposely generate these signals to communicate with other civilizations like ours.
"If it happens, it would definitely be a change in the attitude of Congress since Senator Bryan quit NASA's SETI program in 1993," Tarter told Live Science in an e-mail.
She added that the funding appears to be an extension of the efforts of Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, to draw attention to the search for life beyond the earth he was the chairman of the House Science Committee. (Smith, who announced he would retire at the end of his term this year, is a known denial of man-made climate change.)
If legislation clears the house and passes the Senate, the result would be huge , "This will allow new instruments to be built and data collected and analyzed by a global community," Tarter said about the $ 10 million.
Of course, the search for intelligence beyond the earth as private companies has not stopped and other organizations have funded it, but a buy-in from the federal government is a big deal. [7 Huge Misconceptions about Aliens]
"You must remember that this is an authorization bill, not a crediting bill, and even if this is the case, appropriators should not include SETI funds, but if so, then that's a very big deal, "said Tarter, who provided the basis for the heroine Ellie Arroway in Carl Sagan's novel" Contact "and in the adapted movie of the same name.
Tarter is admittedly ecstatic about the possibility of such a federal focus on SETI. But you do not become the director of the SETI Institute by keeping your feet on the ground
"Put it on, but do not stop," Tarter said of the potential funding. "The Earth dwellers are fascinated by this search everywhere and take care of the answer, so we should create an international outfit to seek intelligent life beyond the earth supporters should be private individuals, enlightened companies, US federal agencies and agencies of other governments on the
She added, "By balancing the financial roller coaster that shaped this field of research from the beginning, it will be possible to attract the best and brightest minds with the best ideas from everywhere and to engage in the long-term efforts that may be required for success. "
Are any greetings just around the corner? Tarter said we now have the technology to search for farther and weaker signals in a way we have never tried before. "But that does not guarantee success in the near future, the cosmos is huge, and we may not yet be able to see properly, even though we do the best possible job with what we know now."
The "right timing perspective," says Tarter, is summarized in a line published in the 1959 Nature magazine by Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison: "The likelihood of success is difficult to gauge, but if we never search, it is the chance of success is nil, "said Tarter.